A sales audit is an examination of the entire sales process, from the systems it uses to the people who use them. Businesses perform sales audits to assess the structure and strategy of their sales efforts and to provide answers to important questions. These answers form the basis for decisions sales managers make regarding policies, procedures, and training. While some prefer to conduct this audit internally, others bring in a third party for a more objective review.
A sales audit normally has a three-fold focus. A thorough evaluation and analysis is essential, as sales make money and the sales staff makes the sales. Areas to evaluate include hiring, training, procedures and expectations.
The second area of focus is the customer. Correct identification of a company’s target market and the ability to adapt to changes within that market are crucial. Establishing a correct customer profile enables the sales staff to apply established criteria in qualifying potential sales opportunities. Areas to evaluate include customer profile, identifying customers' motivations to buy, factors affecting the economy of buying, and current buying trends.
The third area focuses on the sales plan. Effective sales plans incorporate quality, quantity, and direction. Areas to evaluate include order and inventory management, research and development, market competition, and the integration of the sales plan to the company's goals and vision.
Audits can be internal, external, or a combination of both. Some companies choose to combine technology with the audit process and install audit software on sales staff computers as a means to “audit on demand” using information from daily or weekly reports. This can be especially useful in a highly competitive market.
An external or third party auditor normally looks at how the on-paper sales process meshes with what is actually happening. The objectivity supplied by an annual external audit can help discover opportunities for improvements that may otherwise remain unseen.
Auditing the people factor involves meetings with both management and the sales staff. Meetings with management assess the organization of the structure, department divisions, and support staff. Meetings with sales staff members focus on depth of product knowledge, skills assessment, determination of factors that differentiate the successful from the mediocre, identify areas requiring further training.
Auditing the customer factor involves asking questions to determine how well the company and sales staff know their prospects. Surveys sent to randomly chosen customers can reveal a great deal, individual or group meetings with members of the sales staff can help identify just how the sales staff perceives the customer, their wants and needs, their motivation to buy. Taken altogether, members of the sales management team have the information they need to ensure an accurate and complete customer profile.
Auditing the sales plan involves taking a look back and a look forward. Sales plan audits track progress toward long-term strategies, sales tactics put in place to help achieve these goals, and the progress toward, or overall success of short-term goals. Reports and historical data from numerous departments such as finance, product development, and human resources give sales managers information they need for comparison. Information gathered in the first two phases of the sales audit combine to reveal opportunities for change to help ensure the realization of company goals.